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Why are Canada geese considered pests?

The Giant Canada Goose, Branta canadensis maxima, population has skyrocketed in the past 20 years. Presently between 3.5 and 5.5 million non-migratory Giant Canada geese reside in the U.S. and lower Canada. They are joined by an additional 9 to 11 million migrant Canada geese from northern Canada each fall to late spring. This population is growing exponentially at the rate of 30% each year.  With human assistance they have rapidly repopulated much of their historic range and expanded into new areas via translocation programs in the 1970’s and 1980’s, becoming a nuisance in many areas of the United States, Canada and New Zealand.

Given their feeding preference for short, highly fertilized grass with its high nutritional content it is clear why giant Canada geese have infiltrated suburban and city environs with their many lakes and ponds, business parks, golf courses, parks and homes.

What are the problems associated with Canada geese?

q  Unsightly mess (at least a pound of droppings per day per goose!)

q  Disease risk:  droppings can carry histoplasmosis (and more) that can be harmful or fatal to humans

q  Liability of slip-and-fall lawsuits or occupational disease lawsuits

q  High cost of cleanup, repair and maintenance

q  Property devaluation

Will border collies or swans be effective?

Border collies and swans are expensive to rent and only treat the symptoms.  They do not solve the problem (of the area being desirable) permanently; therefore the cost is perpetual.

What is the difference between “distress” “alert” and “alarm calls” on sonic repellers?

Cornell University has made available recorded “distress” calls of Canada geese for decades – they were recorded in a lab, having manipulated the geese in unnatural scenarios.  The sounds are not anything a given goose would recognize as more than sputtering indignation.  Several years ago, Dr. Whitford recorded alert and alarm calls under natural conditions, evoking immediate recognition.  These were the first (and remain the only) such recorded calls in the world.  “Alert” signifies uneasiness or concern about potential danger sources; “Alarm” denotes immediate danger requiring instant evacuation, without lingering to identify the source.

Dr. Whitford’s studies over the years have shown that the realistic nature of the alarm and alert calls is the best way to permanently rid a facility of birds – the geese are too stubborn to be fooled by anything unnatural.

How much effort will success take?

Testing has shown considerable variation in initial goose reaction to alarm-call repellers, from immediate and total departure to mild verbal and physical response. Results depend on past experience of geese, length of residency and season. Regardless of initial reaction, complete goose control is commensurate with your commitment to invest both time and effort. Your strongest efforts are needed at the outset; they will diminish as you achieve success. The alarm-call repeller uses geese’s long-term memory against them — once scared away repeatedly, they rarely return.

Why can’t we just keep one or two pair?

This is a false economy.  One or two happy pair will emit sounds that attract new geese.  So you must adopt a zero-tolerance policy and drive all geese completely off the property immediately. Success is achievable if you prevent geese from claiming stakes rather than waiting — often for as short a time as 20 minutes — until they establish proprietorship.

Can’t we wait to see if the geese return this year before spending money to repel them?

Another false economy.  Relocation efficiency is greatly influenced by the seasonality of your installation.

In late summer to early winter, when all geese can fly and goslings don’t require special feeding areas, you will experience quickest success. New arrivals will leave abruptly in a panic, encouraging original residents to bolt as well.

In late winter to early spring, as nesting season approaches and geese claim territories, it will take more effort. The earlier you start a repelling program the better. Once they’ve settled in, especially with pronounced nest site loyalty, it’s much harder to get them to go.

In mid-spring, when nests are constructed and eggs are laid, you’ll face even greater challenges. But even then the majority of geese, faced with constant harassment, will abandon their nests.

In late spring to mid-summer, as eggs hatch but goslings cannot yet fly, you’ll benefit from another period of less resistance. Adult geese will readily lead their young away from perceived danger.

What can I do for no or low cost, in addition to investing in an alarm-call repeller?

As variation is key, use multiple people performing as many of these tasks as possible:

• Walk or run toward the geese while waving your arms

• Stare at geese while approaching

• Drive a lawnmower toward them, or operate machinery nearby

• Cast a large surface lure near geese on ponds

• Jog near geese

• Use pyrotechnics (no permit required for use on geese, but check local noise/fireworks ordinances.)

• Drag a floating rope across the pond right after turning on the alarm-call repeller to force the geese to fly to another site

• Use spotlights at night near large water areas

• Exclude them from water with low fencing or fishing line during brood rearing and flightless periods of year.

• Use insecticide to make the grass less desirable to goslings

• Use companion products — visual devices like floating alligator head replicas, or food-grade, biodegradable taste aversions (methyl anthranilate) sprayed on grass.

Courtesy of Bird-X, Inc. with technical information from Dr. Philip Whitford, a noted expert in the field of animal behavior. Dr. Whitford holds an endowed chair in the Biology Department of Capital University, Columbus, OH. He has studied Canada goose behavior and vocal communications since 1979 and has published more than 60 articles (23 on Canada geese and other waterfowl), given many professional presentations and produced two videos on the complex behavior and communication patterns of Canada geese. He has a Ph.D. in biological sciences (animal behavior) and B.S. and M.S. degrees in wildlife management.